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Because Jordan is such a small country, journeys are short, and not particularly gruelling. JET buses link the country’s towns and cities, no place being more than five or six hours away from any other.

Another option for getting around is by taxi. The cities are full of these modern yellow cabs, and if there are a few of you it might be worth negotiating with one of the drivers for his services for a few days. You can then discover the country at your own leisure, stopping at your whim to photograph the often breathtaking scenery.

If you’re coming from Egypt or Syria don’t get too comfortable with the cheapness of it all or you’ll be in for a rude awakening when it comes to paying that first Jordanian bill. Jordan is not cheap. The Jordanian Dinar (JD) currently stands at a only a little under the value of the British pound, about 0.85 or so. If you eat or drink anywhere remotely touristy you’ll find your hard earned cash disappearing quicker than you can say “allaikoom salam”.

A further expense is the fact that there isn’t a huge hostel scene in the country, so backpackers usually have to take a budget hotel room. Living like this and eating in local dens (it’s where the best food is anyway) is more affordable as long as you don’t hang around too long. In fact, if you are on a tight budget it’s best to make your journey here quite brief.

Fortunately enough, it’s highly possible to visit the major sites in a matter days, and then move on.

For example if you’re coming from Egypt by ferry, you can spend a night or two camping in the Wadi Rum, another couple of nights roaming the ruins at Petra and then bus your way up to Syria making the briefest of stops at the Dead Sea and/or the Roman city of Jerash. Five or six nights after arrival you can be safely in Damascus reflecting upon your journey, (take the train! Check out the Hejaz Railway section) having had a decent taste of the country with minimal damage to the bank balance.

With the recent onslaught of Hezbollah rockets landing south of the Lebanese border, and Israeli bombs raining down “disproportionately” hard on Beruit, Jordan’s tourist industry will no doubt suffer yet another kick in the Hashemite crown jewels. The latest kick in fact, in what has been a turbulent new millennium for the region. The second Iraqi war, intifada, hotel bombings in Amman, and this latest clash in Lebanon have all knocked the wind out of the Jordan tourist economy sails just as it was starting to gain some momentum.

What lies in the future of the region is unknown, but for Jordan, if past history is anything to go by, now more than ever is the time to visit. Security will be through the roof, flights will be cheap, and with the majority of worried visitors cancelling their holidays, you’ll have sites like Petra all to yourself. An unbelievable treat reserved usually only for the Bedouin.

Tariq El Kashef

Tariq El Kashef is the author and editor of www.alternativeegypt.com – The Online Egypt Travel Guide